So many of my friends and family in the past few weeks have said they are feeling panicky and anxious. I wish I could help to alleviate those feelings for them. What I know is that everyone has their own self soothing remedy. Some turn to prayer and meditation while others turn to exercise, music or self medicating. I say do whatever works for you. But if I am asked what works for me, I tell them my story.
When I was younger-my anxiety would present itself differently. It was bold and bullyish, terrifying and loathsome. It took a very long time to figure out that I didn’t need to entertain this intrusive, uninvited visitor. It was not my duty to be polite or tactful. In fact, what I recognized as time went on, was that the more I dreaded the feelings of anxiety-the stronger this caller became. It was like having an enemy camped just outside my door and whenever they’d fancy, they would stroll into my house, down the hall, make themselves a cup of tea, put their dirty boots up on the ottoman and begin a series of truly ominous events whilst somehow controlling my physical presence.
Unheard of! The nerve! Pretty ballsy! Who or what was this thing that snuffed out even the faintest glimmer of light and locked me into the most gruesome catacombs of my mind?
What I discovered was that this enemy was intimately known to me. I think the saying goes “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, which, by all accounts, I had done remarkably well. The problem was that the decision to engage with this ‘thing’ didn’t seem to be of my own accord.
I did not open the door when it came to call. I didn’t summon its presence in the middle of the night or for that matter, at any time. It was like a bad smell that wouldn’t go away. Always lurking around the corner ready to chip away with its lying and infallible wicked tongue, at any sense of reliable happiness. A formidable opponent, of which I had no desire to fight with and would try desperately to appease with almost any means necessary. This was an exercise in futility (the appeasement) since my desperation was seen as weakness, which appeared to fuel it, much like a standing ovation for an exceptional performance.
My discovery of what this thing was didn’t come in the form of an epiphany. No, it came with the somewhat sloppy and awkward acceptance that it was I, myself, who was in control. Regardless if I remembered sending out an invitation for an anxiety party; it was up to me to send the obtrusive caller away. It was up to me, not to engage in conversation, but to recognize the thief of my own thoughts and physical discomfort, was standing right there waiting to be fed -and by God I wouldn’t allow it anymore!
So began the painfully slow process of disassembling the comfortable furniture that Fear had built.
Oh, it wasn’t easy and it hasn’t been banished from the kingdom so to speak-but it has evolved into a manageable entity that lives in squalor in the recesses of my mind. I have done a lot of work, pad locking it away in the cellar whilst I go about living my life.
There are still times, even after all these years, where I feel vulnerable and overwhelmed. A global pandemic quite possibly could be the very best invitation of all for Fear and his (or her) friend Anxiety. But it is at these times-the times when I feel my weakest, and the weight of all my worries and ‘what ifs’ threaten to suffocate me- that I know what has happened…
It is then that I need to remind myself that I, in fact, am in charge of my own thoughts. I know myself and what calms me. I know how to send this unwelcome guest packing, starting by being kind to myself…just as I would be to another. I may not have control over circumstances -but I do have control in how I react to them.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, (Think about that for a moment).
The courage to change the things I can, (Think about this for a moment).
And the wisdom to know the difference, (Appreciate this, because you are that smart).
My mother repeated this prayer or mantra routinely. She studied it. She wrote out examples of how she could practice it. She discussed it…and the interesting result was that the more she focused on serenity, the stronger her serenity became.
I wish for all of my friends and family that particular serenity. Reach out to whoever your higher power may be and remember-treat yourself just as you would treat someone you cherish and love beyond measure…